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- Divine Comedy - 10/27 -
I turned me round, and thus he spake; "Let him Be to thee now first leader, me but next To him in rank." Then farther on a space The Centaur paus'd, near some, who at the throat Were extant from the wave; and showing us A spirit by itself apart retir'd, Exclaim'd: "He in God's bosom smote the heart, Which yet is honour'd on the bank of Thames."
A race I next espied, who held the head, And even all the bust above the stream. 'Midst these I many a face remember'd well. Thus shallow more and more the blood became, So that at last it but imbru'd the feet; And there our passage lay athwart the foss.
"As ever on this side the boiling wave Thou seest diminishing," the Centaur said, "So on the other, be thou well assur'd, It lower still and lower sinks its bed, Till in that part it reuniting join, Where 't is the lot of tyranny to mourn. There Heav'n's stern justice lays chastising hand On Attila, who was the scourge of earth, On Sextus, and on Pyrrhus, and extracts Tears ever by the seething flood unlock'd From the Rinieri, of Corneto this, Pazzo the other nam'd, who fill'd the ways With violence and war." This said, he turn'd, And quitting us, alone repass'd the ford.
ERE Nessus yet had reach'd the other bank, We enter'd on a forest, where no track Of steps had worn a way. Not verdant there The foliage, but of dusky hue; not light The boughs and tapering, but with knares deform'd And matted thick: fruits there were none, but thorns Instead, with venom fill'd. Less sharp than these, Less intricate the brakes, wherein abide Those animals, that hate the cultur'd fields, Betwixt Corneto and Cecina's stream.
Here the brute Harpies make their nest, the same Who from the Strophades the Trojan band Drove with dire boding of their future woe. Broad are their pennons, of the human form Their neck and count'nance, arm'd with talons keen The feet, and the huge belly fledge with wings These sit and wail on the drear mystic wood.
The kind instructor in these words began: "Ere farther thou proceed, know thou art now I' th' second round, and shalt be, till thou come Upon the horrid sand: look therefore well Around thee, and such things thou shalt behold, As would my speech discredit." On all sides I heard sad plainings breathe, and none could see From whom they might have issu'd. In amaze Fast bound I stood. He, as it seem'd, believ'd, That I had thought so many voices came From some amid those thickets close conceal'd, And thus his speech resum'd: "If thou lop off A single twig from one of those ill plants, The thought thou hast conceiv'd shall vanish quite."
Thereat a little stretching forth my hand, From a great wilding gather'd I a branch, And straight the trunk exclaim'd: "Why pluck'st thou me?"
Then as the dark blood trickled down its side, These words it added: "Wherefore tear'st me thus? Is there no touch of mercy in thy breast? Men once were we, that now are rooted here. Thy hand might well have spar'd us, had we been The souls of serpents." As a brand yet green, That burning at one end from the' other sends A groaning sound, and hisses with the wind That forces out its way, so burst at once, Forth from the broken splinter words and blood.
I, letting fall the bough, remain'd as one Assail'd by terror, and the sage replied: "If he, O injur'd spirit! could have believ'd What he hath seen but in my verse describ'd, He never against thee had stretch'd his hand. But I, because the thing surpass'd belief, Prompted him to this deed, which even now Myself I rue. But tell me, who thou wast; That, for this wrong to do thee some amends, In the upper world (for thither to return Is granted him) thy fame he may revive."
"That pleasant word of thine," the trunk replied "Hath so inveigled me, that I from speech Cannot refrain, wherein if I indulge A little longer, in the snare detain'd, Count it not grievous. I it was, who held Both keys to Frederick's heart, and turn'd the wards, Opening and shutting, with a skill so sweet, That besides me, into his inmost breast Scarce any other could admittance find. The faith I bore to my high charge was such, It cost me the life-blood that warm'd my veins. The harlot, who ne'er turn'd her gloating eyes From Caesar's household, common vice and pest Of courts, 'gainst me inflam'd the minds of all; And to Augustus they so spread the flame, That my glad honours chang'd to bitter woes. My soul, disdainful and disgusted, sought Refuge in death from scorn, and I became, Just as I was, unjust toward myself. By the new roots, which fix this stem, I swear, That never faith I broke to my liege lord, Who merited such honour; and of you, If any to the world indeed return, Clear he from wrong my memory, that lies Yet prostrate under envy's cruel blow."
First somewhat pausing, till the mournful words Were ended, then to me the bard began: "Lose not the time; but speak and of him ask, If more thou wish to learn." Whence I replied: "Question thou him again of whatsoe'er Will, as thou think'st, content me; for no power Have I to ask, such pity' is at my heart."
He thus resum'd; "So may he do for thee Freely what thou entreatest, as thou yet Be pleas'd, imprison'd Spirit! to declare, How in these gnarled joints the soul is tied; And whether any ever from such frame Be loosen'd, if thou canst, that also tell."
Thereat the trunk breath'd hard, and the wind soon Chang'd into sounds articulate like these;
"Briefly ye shall be answer'd. When departs The fierce soul from the body, by itself Thence torn asunder, to the seventh gulf By Minos doom'd, into the wood it falls, No place assign'd, but wheresoever chance Hurls it, there sprouting, as a grain of spelt, It rises to a sapling, growing thence A savage plant. The Harpies, on its leaves Then feeding, cause both pain and for the pain A vent to grief. We, as the rest, shall come For our own spoils, yet not so that with them We may again be clad; for what a man Takes from himself it is not just he have. Here we perforce shall drag them; and throughout The dismal glade our bodies shall be hung, Each on the wild thorn of his wretched shade."
Attentive yet to listen to the trunk We stood, expecting farther speech, when us A noise surpris'd, as when a man perceives The wild boar and the hunt approach his place Of station'd watch, who of the beasts and boughs Loud rustling round him hears. And lo! there came Two naked, torn with briers, in headlong flight, That they before them broke each fan o' th' wood. "Haste now," the foremost cried, "now haste thee death!"
The' other, as seem'd, impatient of delay Exclaiming, "Lano! not so bent for speed Thy sinews, in the lists of Toppo's field." And then, for that perchance no longer breath Suffic'd him, of himself and of a bush One group he made. Behind them was the wood Full of black female mastiffs, gaunt and fleet, As greyhounds that have newly slipp'd the leash. On him, who squatted down, they stuck their fangs, And having rent him piecemeal bore away The tortur'd limbs. My guide then seiz'd my hand, And led me to the thicket, which in vain Mourn'd through its bleeding wounds: "O Giacomo Of Sant' Andrea! what avails it thee," It cried, "that of me thou hast made thy screen? For thy ill life what blame on me recoils?"
When o'er it he had paus'd, my master spake: "Say who wast thou, that at so many points Breath'st out with blood thy lamentable speech?"
He answer'd: "Oh, ye spirits: arriv'd in time To spy the shameful havoc, that from me My leaves hath sever'd thus, gather them up, And at the foot of their sad parent-tree Carefully lay them. In that city' I dwelt, Who for the Baptist her first patron chang'd, Whence he for this shall cease not with his art To work her woe: and if there still remain'd not On Arno's passage some faint glimpse of him, Those citizens, who rear'd once more her walls Upon the ashes left by Attila,
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